Kavitha Lankesh, S Anand and Sashikumar drew attention to self-censorship and freedom of expression.

Rise of intolerance is a well-planned agenda Sashikumar Kavitha Lankesh speak at KLF
news Kerala Literature Festival Sunday, February 11, 2018 - 13:58

“Yes, there will also be singing about the dark times.”

This was the response of senior journalist and Asianet founder Sashikumar, who was asked about the voice of dissent becoming feeble. Quoting Bertolt Brecht, Sashikumar echoed the general tone of the Kerala Literature Festival, where many speakers spoke on the importance of dissent.

As part of a session titled ‘Gauri Lankesh: Silencing of Dissent’, journalist and publisher S Anand, writer and activist Kavitha Lankesh and Sashikumar drew attention to self-censorship and freedom of expression.

“What the media says need not always be the first draft of history. On US Television, they make fun of President Donald Trump. In India, it’s not even possible to criticize Modi. There is no tolerance for criticism against him. We need to be afraid to even talk about him. We need to be self-conscious while talking. Forget about dissent, we need to self-check before we talk. It's dangerous. We are living in a democracy in 2018, and we still we are discussing freedom of expression,” he said.

Kavitha, Gauri Lankesh’s sister, said that if Gauri was alive, she would have rejoiced when Jignesh Mevani won the Assembly election in Gujarat.

“It’s an acceptance of the brand of politics she represented. Gauri believed there is no need to be afraid of physical violence as a woman. In a sense, our father was more courageous than her. Over the years, the attack on the different voices has changed,” she said.

Speaking about the rise of intolerance in the country, Sashikumar said that it was a well-planned agenda.

“We can’t say there is silence about it. It’s a well-planned agenda,” he said.

“The RSS, which now imposes nationalism, never used to honour the tricolour. They never honoured the national flag or national anthem, but they are teaching the people to do so,” he added.

‘Dissent indispensable in democracy’

In another session, titled ‘Necessity to Dissent in Democracy’ which was moderated by Sashikumar, JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar said that dissent is indispensable for democracy, and there is no need to even discuss it.

“Even after so many years, if you express your views in the country you are abused. If you question the state, you are put in jail. You will be branded as ‘anti-national’ when you dissent. More and more people like actor Prakash Raj and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen have been branded as anti-nationals,” he said.

Commenting on the CPI (M) Central Committee’s recent decision to not have a broader alliance with other political parties including the Congress, he said, “If we are facing problems of fascism, there should be a united front in favour of democracy and the constitution for a liberal democratic state. It’s about the point of convergence respecting democratic rights. We need both Gandhi and Bhagat Singh at this time. Differences should be there, but don't look only at that. When we look deeper, there are other issues,” he said.

Speaking of revolution, he said, “Revolution is an evolutionary process. Society will bring revolution, not an individual. Politicians should pave the way for new people. Constitutional values should be democratised and there should be debate on how to reach out in a democracy,” he said.

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